Sunday, April 12, 2015

System Thinking vs. Process Thinking

There are more than synergy between System Thinking (ST) and Process Thinking (PT).

Systems Thinking is how the whole system works together. A process is a smaller part of the larger system. A system is an entity which maintains its existence through the mutual interaction of its parts with a sequence of activities, to keep the coherence of the parts and ensure the required functions. A process is a sequence of activities intended to produce a particular result. So inside the system, there are the processes, and process thinking will and must be compatible with system thinking.

System Thinking (ST) and PT (Process Thinking) are both purposeful: A system is purposeful. It can change its purpose and objectives and does not necessarily 'fail' if objectives and purpose are not met. One of its parts is designed to change system purpose and objectives. Also, a system can adapt to its environment. A process is purposive as well, you cannot change its purpose and objectives and fails if it does not fulfill its purpose or achieve its objectives. There is no part of a process that changes its purpose - that role is given to another process. A process cannot adapt to its environment - it has to be redesigned using a different process. In the end, ST is for detecting the defects in the design and find out the best strategy to improve it (leverage points). Thus, ST and PT, while different, should be integrated into theory and practice, for which we need some, even vague and inexact conceptual model.


Process thinking is more focused & specific; while systems thinking is to see the interconnected whole: “Process" thinking is a series of actions, activities, changes, etc., that proceed from one to the next. Many who believe they are process thinkers believe they are logical and they proceed in a logical progression. "Systems" thinking is an orderly, interconnected, and sometimes complex arrangement of principles linked to form a coherent doctrine. Many who believe they are systems thinkers, think of themselves as seeing the "bigger" picture, or the global outlook, as well as how their thinking may be based on a set of preordained principles. Therefore, process thinking may be considered micro or focused on a specific, whereas system thinking may be considered macro or broad-based in nature. A ST system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. Almost always defined with respect to a specific purpose.


Processes are the HOW; the system is the WHAT: To have a system that works, one must have designed the processes within the system to work consecutively in achieving the desired results. Only then can a system be called a system otherwise it is just a random series of activities, neither process nor system. The issues arise on the "emotional" levels - the people who must use the processes within the systems and the processes to connect the system. People are "protective," "resistant," "jealous," "competitive", etc., but the trick is to get everyone to pitch in and find the value for themselves in designing the appropriate processes and systems.


Bridge the two point of views: What should you try to do is to bridge the two perspectives so that they can enhance each other. It looks like to do this, you need to dig deeper and have some common model that includes both perspectives. On people vs systems. In the model as it stays now, people are considered as indivisible entities, systems are complex and do include people. Considering people as systems. Identify the interaction between the processes that may be the output of one process, input of another process and all of the processes interacted to give a complete system. However, whenever you try to achieve desired results without following the natural output, the results may be what went wrong. On the deep abstract level, all systems and processes are the same, in reality, they fall in different categories. This is why there are and should be different disciplines/fields/theories for investigating them. It is well known that the same phenomenon can be described in different ways that are equivalent in a pure mathematical sense but are not equivalent in the applicability sense.

Systems thinking is a visual-spatial, right brain perspective, while process thinking is a focus left brain perspective...they are not in conflict, however. Systems Thinking requires a shift in perception to recognize that an organizational ST incorporates interacting, interrelated, and interdependent components of a whole that have purpose across more than one category of the system to value add. ST does not need to look at the details of the design such as low-level business processes to discover patterns of behavior, thus, ST models can completely differ from business process models. There are a lot of reasons why the design results is something different than intended, like gaps in the design because there are no processes to handle certain situations, unrealistic design that could not be implemented in the organizational system, idealistic design that does not take into account limited resources, or that different processes may compete for the same limited resources, which gives the system undesirable behavior.


There are more than synergy between System Thinking (ST) and Process Thinking (PT). Systems thinking is to identify where actions and decisions are having an adverse impact on the outcomes. Processes are essential to make a system “functional.” Without process thinking, systems are the segregated items which live their life without any interaction with their environment which includes the other systems.  Having different views and theories is an advantage. The goal of the current exercise is to find out how the different views are interconnected and complemented to solve complex problems and organizational designs.

1 comments:

Process is very small part of system, Yes but it's very important part of System.

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